­How to Spot a Sociopath in 3 Steps


Whether you’re seeking to spot a potential school shooter, a serious romantic partner, a total cheat at work, a scammer on the internet, or someone pushing a counterfeit business deal on you, it helps to understand some of the warning symptoms for sociopath.

As I explained in Part 1 of this two-part series, sociopaths can have some deep and dangerous personality traits.

The DSM-5 lists 10 guidelines for diagnosing antisocial personality disorder1 (ASPD), but it allows you to have professional training and a lot of knowledge about the individuals. I’m not going to explain to you how to diagnose an ASPD or to see them from a sociopath (or psychopath, or con artist).

This post concentrates on a few of the information that they may give you at your first or first few confrontations. These hints may assist you to want to keep your hand despite how appealing they may appear on the surface. Don’t be a victim.

The Theme of Dominance

The DSM-5 states that the primary feature is their eagerness to “disregard [or violate] the rights of others.” From my practice in over 30 years dealing with legal cases, relationship conflicts, workplace conflicts, and other conditions as a high-conflict consultant, I would say that the driving force with sociopaths (and they have lots of energy) is to control others.

This may or may not include teaching the law. They want to control people to get things from them, such as their properties, money, sex, marketing partners, homes, cars, finances, reputation and so forth.

But they also like controlling others just for the warmth of it—the feeling of power and control. Sociopaths lack a duty, so they will do anything to get what they need.

The three-step method I suggest using to quickly size up whether someone has sociopathic traits (or any high-conflict personality pattern) is what I call The WEB Method®:

The following are some hints you may pick up from someone by using this process.

Their Words

Sociopaths are fast readers. Their words are frequently, if not false. But they use many, many words intended to cover their practice. They may be a separate person from who they say that they are.

Watch out for limits—big promises; big stories, about the history or the future; and big plans, with no reason for them or no life at whatever they’re planning.  

The three-step method I suggest using to quickly size up whether someone has sociopathic traits (or any high-conflict personality pattern) is what I call The WEB Method®: Their WORDS, your Passions and their Management (which involves actions 90% of people would never do). The following are some hints you may pick up from someone by using this process.

Remarkably negative words.

On the other hand, their words can be remarkably negative, often after they’ve known you a small bit. They will criticize you (their Target of Blame) for minor or non-existent crimes: You extended to me! (Even though you didn’t, and they lie constantly to you.)

A sociopath will often rearrange back and forth between intense charm and extreme threats to get what they want, depending on what they view is or isn’t running at the time. Watch out for strong ideas, which they then leave to adopt the different point of view when it’s available. They will use whatever words they see as supporting them manage the situation now, like an artist’s palette of colors.

Also Read: Scope of Organizational Behaviour and its Importance in Management

Your Emotions

How do you know around the person? It’s often your passions that first tell you to beware because your brain needs to believe them. Many people give sociopaths, or use them, do business deals with them, or choose them to hold positions, even though they saw some information signs.

They wanted to believe the person’s words sooner than pay regard to how they felt. Trust your emotions more than their words. If you have an angry or extreme feeling, check it out. Do a little analysis or ask around about what people believe of so-and-so.


One general feeling around a sociopath is that they could harm you if they wanted to. Sociopaths can be predators, so you may simply feel uncomfortable being alone with them. You may quickly get the feeling that you want to get out of circumstances. Go, and ask issues later. Don’t let them tell you out of your fears. Take your time and get more training information about them.


This is the other limit. Because of their many remarkably positive words, people can fall in love with them—particularly if they are lonely, lamenting or have low self-esteem at the time. (For more, see my book Dating Radar, co-authored by Megan Hunter.)

This also goes for engaging. In today’s fast-paced and aggressive business world, sociopaths can make themselves look like a superstar. If you know cleaned off your feet by a potential business partner, representative or employer, you may be falling for a sociopath. Since they are here, you must maintain a healthy suspicion no matter where you are.

Extreme sympathy:

If you find yourself feeling remarkably sympathetic toward someone, you may also need to check out why. Sociopaths are able at claiming they have been sacrificed and tell good stories to go with it.

They also often take hold of people in unsafe or sympathetic situations (the elderly, victims of natural disasters, churchgoers, volunteers, etc.). By working hard on your sympathy, they also may be able to get you to do things you wouldn’t usually do for anyone else. 

Their Behavior (The 90% Rule):

A surprisingly easy way to spot a sociopath is to stay focused on their performance and ignore their words. Pay special consideration to any extreme behavior—things they do that 90% of people would not. Ask yourself, Would I always do that? Irrational behavior is common for sociopaths, but they quickly cover it up with reasons: I was exhausted. I was under a lot of anxiety.

He (or she) made me do it. I had to do it given what the other personality did. It almost also doesn’t express what the behavior was; their reasons are often the same. They are always faultless and rarely apologize unless they are grabbed, and it will make them look good.

Targets of blame:

As I discussed in Part 1, many sociopaths end up focused on Targets of Blame—people they feel justified in using viciously, whether in their relationships, at work, or in their neighborhoods. They often enjoy the difficulty of other people.

While they may target anyone, most people will withdraw them. The ones they keep targeting or threatening are those who stay involved with them. Either they get driving back with the sociopath (who can do determined better than almost anyone else) or they give their fear or failure.

Both methods are unwise.

It’s better to easily release than to show how they change your emotions. They will enjoy your invalid anger and/or your dependent frustration; it just proves that they are dominating you.

Smiles, smiles, and laughter.

One unusual aspect is to see how they enjoy other people’s misery and hardship. In justified cases, I have seen sociopaths smile, smile or outright laugh when a sufferer tells their story in testimony or open court. It gets your attention, because, repeatedly, 90% of people would never do that.

They would know more real and feel some compassion for the victim. If you also see someone laughing, smirking, or laughing out loud as they see another’s pain on TV, in a movie, or on the street at an event, you may be seeing a sociopath who can’t help himself or herself.

Childhood behavior records.

One of the DSM-5 guidelines for an antisocial (sociopathic) personality disorder is that the personality has signs of dysfunction by age 15. This could include actions such as torturing or shooting small animals or pets, borrowing from family and strangers, fire-starting, or a grave pattern of lying. This is surprisingly common for sociopaths, so they may try to cover such a history or give excuses.

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